Who will win the NBA Finals? Sports Illustrated brings in their experts to give their predictions.
Sports Illustraded: Ian Thomsen: Lakers over Cavs. Given the injuries to San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili and Boston’s Garnett, it looks as if L.A. and Cleveland are set up for a Finals between the league’s top two stars. Maybe Garnett can make it back to push the Celtics past Cleveland, but how often do you hear of a happy ending after an extended and murky injury like his? I’m not picking the Lakers in a blowout — the Cavs definitely could beat them — but L.A. has the advantage based on Bynum’s return and the promise of three playoff series for him to be fully integrated before the Finals.
Jack McCallum: Lakers over Cavs. L.A. will toy with the West, going through Utah, Houston and San Antonio without much trouble. The Cavs, meanwhile, will have a slightly more difficult path. I can see the old-pro Pistons getting a game or two in the first series, and Wade leading the Heat to at least two wins in the second round, before the Cavs beat Orlando (assuming Garnett is out) in six in the Eastern finals. In the Finals, I see the Lakers over the Cavs in six. L.A. has the avenge-last-season motivation, the defense to stop LeBron in spots, the coaching experience and a guy named Kobe.
Chris Mannix: Lakers over Cavs. The return of Bynum and news that the Celtics could be without Garnett effectively locks in the matchup many have been expecting for months. Home-court advantage definitely helps the Cavs — if you haven’t been to Quicken Loans Arena recently, think Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium — but I don’t see 18,000-plus rabid fans derailing the Lakers this time around. The Lakers’ only weakness is their vulnerability against teams that punch them in the mouth and bully them, but a healthy Boston was the only club really capable of doing that.
Steve Aschburner: Lakers over Cavs. The Lakers are more battle-tested as a unit and have a more wily big-stage coach. Then there’s this: Kobe will take very, very personally his duel for supremacy with LeBron, and he’ll have an easier time training his laser sight on one guy rather than, last year, Boston’s three.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Lakers over Cavs. The path through the East figures to be a lot more interesting than what should be a smooth ride for L.A. in a conference with the wounded Spurs, the unproven Nuggets and Trail Blazers, the fast-fading Jazz and the undependable Rockets, Hornets and Mavericks. The Lakers are not only the best team, but they also won’t have to face an opponent like the Magic (my preseason pick to win the East) or Celtics (if Garnett returns and is effective) before even reaching the Finals.